This Is How Cardio Really Changes Your Body

If you think about it, it's kind of strange that cardio exercise is healthy. After all, you're doing an activity that makes your body go through a bunch of sudden changes that, individually, don't sound so good. Whether you're running, power-walking, cycling, or doing another type of cardio, your heart rate will race, you'll be breathing heavily, your core body temperature will rise — and let's not forget the copious sweat and body odor. None of these things sound healthy! And yet, cardiovascular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, particularly your heart, according to the American Heart Association. Why?

In an interview with Health Digest, Kaley Hatfield, a certified personal fitness trainer and professional dancer, broke down the positive ways your health changes when you do cardio regularly. "Cardiovascular exercise is extremely beneficial to your heart and lungs," she explained. "It challenges and raises your heart rate, which can help lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels."

Cardio exercise offers health benefits beyond your heart and lungs

You might not be surprised to hear that a type of exercise referred to as "cardiovascular" is going to benefit your heart and lungs, which make up your cardiovascular system. But Hatfield pointed out that the benefits of cardio go well beyond this key organ system. "Even if it's just walking or bike riding for 30 minutes, three times a week, you will get a rush of endorphins, the brain's feel-good hormone, that boosts your confidence to keep going," she explained. Indeed, research suggests that those positive feelings will last long after you've tossed those workout clothes in the hamper and hit the shower; research suggests that cardio exercises like running can reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Let's also not forget the benefit of cardio that might have drawn you to this healthy habit in the first place. "Making cardio part of your weekly routine will help your body lose fat [and] boost your metabolism," Hatfield said, which makes weight loss easier. You won't just be getting slimmer — you'll also be getting stronger, she added. "Regular exercise, whether it's cardio or weight lifting, is working your muscles," she explained. "Which increases your oxygen supply, and helps your muscles to push harder. So over time your muscles adapt to an increased workload, making regular activities that were once hard, seem much easier."